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updated: 4/25/2012 8:26 PM

NHL players need to stop defending their own

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  • The Blackhawks' Marian Hossa is tendleaves the game after a hit from Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres (37) during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Chicago, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

      The Blackhawks' Marian Hossa is tendleaves the game after a hit from Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres (37) during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Chicago, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
    Associated Press

  • Blackhawks' Marian Hossa (81) of Slovakia, falls down after hit from Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres (37) during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Chicago, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

      Blackhawks' Marian Hossa (81) of Slovakia, falls down after hit from Phoenix Coyotes' Raffi Torres (37) during the first period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Chicago, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
    Associated Press

 
 

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville called the vicious hit by Raffi Torres on Marian Hossa in Game 3 the turning point of the series.

He was right.

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As the final few reporters were filtering out of the Hawks locker room after the series finale Monday night, a striking image emerged: Hossa's game jersey hanging in his stall. With all the other jerseys already in the cart to be laundered, Hoss's sweater stood as a stark and eerie reminder of the actual damage all these hits to the head are doing.

For the lack of a better term, I'm going to call what happened in the Blackhawks-Coyotes series selective outrage.

In other words, if you really, truly want to end all this nonsense, you have to be just as outraged when it's one of your own on the giving end of the ugliness.

Let's go back to Andrew Shaw's collision with Mike Smith behind the net in Game 2 in Glendale, a hit that cost Shaw a three-game suspension.

Yes, they collided. No, Shaw did not go airborne to make the hit. Yes, his shoulder hit Smith's head, but it certainly didn't look like he led with it. Yes, Smith spun around, tossed his gloves and stick and laid on the ice for minutes before miraculously recovering and playing the rest of the game ... and starring in the rest of the series, I might add.

Boy, remember how mad the Coyotes leaders were, especially because it involved contact with the head?

"He hits a goalie in the head," Coyotes captain Shane Doan told reporters after the game. "They want to get rid of blows to the head, period. Trust me, I know. "

And then there was Phoenix coach Dave Tippett.

"The league will look at that," Tippett said. "Obviously that's contact to the head and it doesn't matter if it's a goaltender or a player. That's blindside contact to the head."

Fair enough.

Then in Game 3, one of the Coyotes' own, Torres, comes from out of nowhere with a leaping shoulder drive into Hossa's head, forcing Hossa off the ice on a stretcher and to the hospital.

The response from Phoenix?

Virtual crickets.

"It looked to me like he was finishing his check, but I haven't looked at it in-depth yet," Tippett said of a hit that occurred right in front of the benches.

Hmm.

"I haven't seen it, but from what I was told it wasn't that bad," Doan told reporters after the game.

Really?

Then, after the league comes down hard on Torres with a 25-game suspension, Doan and Tippett have virtually nothing to say on the subject.

That shouldn't have come as a surprise because closing ranks around your own is a time-honored tradition. And to be honest, it's not just the Coyotes.

The Hawks probably should've been more vocal about Duncan Keith's shot to the head of the Canucks' Daniel Sedin near the end of the regular season, a hit that caused Sedin a concussion and earned Keith five games off.

Is it so hard for team leaders to say: "(Teammate A) made a stupid play and he should be punished and let's move on. But we can't have those type of hits in the game anymore."

As long as your teammates have your back, though, you don't care what anyone else says. I get it.

But this is different.

It's time for those running the rooms around the league to stand up and say it's got to stop. And when it's one of your own doing the damage, stand up and say it's wrong, unacceptable.

Like veteran Hawks forward Brendan Morrison did after the Torres suspension was announced.

"At the end of the day this is on the players to have respect for each other," Morrison said. "The respect factor in the league has diminished severely over the past few seasons.

"Maybe the only way to put an end to it is to get after guys like this."

Playoff hockey is by far the best in all of sports with the hard-hitting, the breathtaking pace and the edge-of-your-seat excitement. I could watch it 24-7.

This kind of playoff hockey is ridiculous. You want your stars shining brightly on the ice, not sitting alone in a dark room not exactly sure what day it is.

My initial solution to the problem would be to fine the organization the same amount of money the suspended player is losing during his time off. Can you imagine having to go into John McDonough's office and explaining why you just cost the Blackhawks a quarter of a million dollars? That would seem like quite the deterrent.

Meanwhile, Hossa, who visited with teammates Monday morning, still struggles to get back to normal.

"He hasn't felt very well at all," Quenneville said after the Hawks were eliminated. "It was his first day out of the house ... hopefully he progresses."

The last word goes to the Coyotes' Smith, who got it right later on in the series when addressing the subject.

"Obviously the head hits have to be cut down; it's people's livelihoods, not hockey," he said. "Hockey, we all love to play it and it's a fun sport, but people have families and kids at home and wives, and when you're getting into the head and concussion issues around the whole league ... I think we need to put a stop to it."

Amen.

mspellman@dailyherald.com

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